Tuesday, August 13, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. -- Aiken County has scored a presumably large victory against the Obama Administration that could be a game-changer in how nuclear waste is stored in the United State.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in the county's favor concerning Yucca Mountain, a nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
The case was aimed at reversing President Barack Obama's decision to end a nuclear waste repository in Nevada called Yucca Mountain.
"This case boils down to one simple premise, and it's what every third grader in America learns in their civics class: Congress makes laws and the executive branch enforces laws," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson in May 2012.
That law he was referring to is the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. It was passed back in 1982 and approved again in 2002. Pre-construction began, but when President Obama took office, the Department of Energy removed its license application and construction stopped.
So, in August 2011, Aiken County, along with other states and citizens, filed a writ of mandamus, a legal maneuver that would force government action.
Today, after a year of deliberation, the Court of Appeals released their ruling in Aiken County's favor.
"This case has serious implications for our constitutional structure. It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," writes Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. "Our decision today rests on the constitutional authority of Congress, and the respect that the Executive and the Judiciary properly owe to Congress in the circumstances here."
“This decision reaffirms a fundamental truth: the President is not above the law," says Attorney General Wilson in a statement. "His administration cannot pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore."
While the ruling forces the licensing process of Yucca Mountain to continue immediately, Congress ultimately controls the purse strings.
“To be sure, if Congress determines in the wake of our decision that it will never fund the Commission’s licensing process to completion, we would certainly hope that Congress would step in before the current $11.1 million is expended, so as to avoid wasting that taxpayer money,” Kavanaugh writes. “And Congress, of course, is under no obligation to appropriate additional money for the Yucca Mountain project.”